Danish milk consumers are critical of advanced breeding methods in dairy production, but only 1 in 5 is unwilling to drink milk from dairy cows bred with semen derived from such methods

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Assisted reproductive technologies and genetic technologies can accelerate progress in breeding programs in dairy farming, but it is unclear how consumers will react to the use of these technologies. Using representative questionnaire data on Danish citizens (n = 2,036) this cross-sectional study examined consumer attitudes to the application of advanced technologies in dairy cattle breeding. Attitudes were examined in 2 ways. First, we prompted about general attitudes to assisted reproductive technologies and genetic technologies in dairy cow breeding. Here we found that most of the participants were critical of cow impregnation involving hormone therapy and the insertion of cloned fetuses. Second, we used a vignette experiment to study whether acceptance of and willingness to drink milk varies with the type of technique that farmers use for their breeding work, as well as the traits being bred for. We included 5 breeding methods with differing degrees of technological complexity. Participants were randomly assigned to receive tailored information about 1 of the 5 breeding methods. The information specified that dairy farmers' own use of advanced technologies is limited to using semen in artificial insemination on the farm. The potentially concerning technologies are here not applied at farm level but are represented in the semen used in artificial insemination because they were used by breeders on earlier generations of cows and bulls to develop semen with higher genetic merit. There was much less concern about this indirect use of the technologies. Only 1 in 5 participants thought the most advanced method we prompted about (use of semen from breeding methods involving genetic engineering and cloning) was unacceptable. Unwillingness to drink milk from cows produced through such a breeding method was also modest (18%) and not much higher than the unwillingness to drink milk from a cow produced by natural fertilization (10%). A likely reason for the unexpectedly low level of unwillingness to drink milk is that people regard the genetic engineering as distant from the final product. We also found that high-frequency organic milk consumers were more critical of advanced breeding methods. Thus, 28% within this group were unwilling to drink milk from cows impregnated with semen derived from earlier generations of cows and bulls bred using gene editing and cloning. Further, this share rose if the high-frequency organic consumers were very averse to the manipulation of nature. The organic sector may need to cater to this subgroup (e.g., by ensuring the traceability of the semen that organic farmers use to artificially inseminate their cows).
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Number of pages17
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jan 2023

ID: 333347500